In an industry as huge as healthcare, it’s no surprise that organizations rely heavily on their contact centers. And, even more than in other industries, callers typically need resolutions as fast as humanly possible. Or should I say… as fast as virtually possible. That’s where conversational AI can come in.
This post was originally published in Plum.
The first question that will come to mind for many when trusting this kind of system with their healthcare information is… is it safe? Security is a top concern in the healthcare industry, with many laws and regulations, like HIPAA in the US, protecting patient privacy and how personal and medical information is stored and handled. Agents handling this sort of information often need special training and credentials to meet the requirements. It may seem surprising at first, but AI and virtual agents can in fact be just as secure as live agents, if not more. AI platforms can be configured in a way that means personal data is not recorded or stored anywhere, de-scoping them from privacy regulations. And, of course, some basic patient needs (such as finding out office hours) do not require any personal data to be communicated at all. Utilizing AI for your healthcare contact center can free up your live agents to take care of more complex needs and save you money while handling more requests simultaneously.
So, what are some of the ways in which conversational AI, equipped with natural language processing (NLP), can handle patient or customer callers in the healthcare industry?
Utilizing AI, patients can use the voice channel and natural language to search for and connect directly with healthcare providers using parameters such as patient phone number, ZIP code, and insurance type. This allows patients the flexibility to communicate with the right provider from anywhere, as well as the speed of connecting and getting the answers they need quickly.
Medical facilities and practices that deploy automated patient surveys can capture critical feedback about their service and patient satisfaction. Researchers also benefit from IVA software when used to collect data from clinical trial subjects, reducing the frequency of office visits.
Prescription Refills and Information
Healthcare providers, pharmacies, or even insurance companies might want to automate the dissemination of prescription information. This may include things such as the name of a patient’s current medication, their current dosage, the number of remaining refills, or the name(s) of generic alternatives.
Patients can then call a phone number and retrieve this information at will. It’s also possible to integrate this type of application with other applications designed to order prescription refills. Pharmacies can use AI apps to provide status updates to patients requesting for prescriptions to be filled and even send proactive notifications to let patients know when their prescription is ready to be picked up.
Virtual agent applications such as Plum Voice can automate management over the phone. This allows healthcare providers to offer their patients the ability to schedule new appointments, look up existing appointments, cancel appointments or make scheduling changes. This is especially useful for patients looking for appointment information after-hours, or patients looking to reschedule an appointment last minute.
Collect medical information for testing and/or present patients with test results. Providers can record personalized test results and attach that recording to a patient’s medical record. Once the recording is in the system, when the customer calls to find out their results, a conversation AI program can pull up and play the recording. Providers can also use a combination of pre-recorded audio and text-to-speech to read back common test results. If patients have questions after receiving their results, providers can easily give callers the option of connecting directly to a nurse or other healthcare provider.
Doctors and nurses don’t have time to follow up personally with every patient that gets discharged from the hospital. But an automated IVA application can, with ease. Providers can use conversational AI virtual agents to present patients with common symptoms based on their condition. If a patient identifies a problem during a post-procedure call, a virtual agent can immediately connect the patient to a doctor or nurse to assess whether readmission is necessary. With IVA, providers can identify post-procedure issues faster, which can reduce hospital readmission rates.
No matter which way you slice it, communications affect every aspect of the healthcare industry. It’s precisely this reason that it’s so important for healthcare providers to focus on enabling access to clear and accurate information when needed.
At the same time, IT infrastructure in healthcare is often a mishmash of different technologies. As digital transformation opens a new frontier of possibilities for all industries, healthcare operations need to evolve along with the technology to keep up and deliver excellent patient/customer experiences. That’s why it’s critical to find digital solutions that first and foremost, solve problems. And yet, an ability to do the job well isn’t always enough. With limited funds and developer resources, healthcare providers require technology that is flexible in its own right: technology that can adapt to future industry needs, software that is easy to use and implement, and can provide the reliability, stability, and security necessary to meet all the needs of healthcare providers.
As if that’s not enough, the output of these technologies, the end-user experience, has to be one that is engaging for patients, one that provides them the service and information they need quickly and intuitively. Conversational AI is quickly becoming the go-to industry resource for healthcare contact centers to accurately identify and meet patient needs with self-service options, with security and privacy remaining a top priority.